More Than A Mural
Omri Casspi, swastikas and hate crime in America.
Last Wednesday, a Sacramento mural depicting Kings forward Omri Casspi was defaced. Eight days later, it happened again.
The first crime was brought to the police’s attention on the eve of Rosh Hashana — the Jewish New Year. As the Sac Bee reported, “The Sacramento Police Department is investigating as a possible hate crime graffiti painted on a mural of Sacramento Kings players in the midtown area. Police Department spokesman Officer Konrad von Schoech said a report was received about noon Wednesday that a swastika had been painted on a plywood mural at 16th and R streets. The backward swastika was painted on the forehead of Kings player Omri Casspi, who is from Israel.”
Yesterday, a little more than 24 hours prior to Yom Kippur — the holiest day of the Jewish year — someone vandalized the same mural in the same manner.
Contacted last week by the Sac Bee‘s Ailene Voisin, a classy Casspi, the first Israeli to play in an NBA regular season game, said he was “hurt” by what had happened, before going on to praise the citizens of Sacramento.
Casspi, who wears jersey No. 18 for sentimental religious reasons, has not spoken since the second hate crime was committed.
It’s safe to assume he’s hurt by it, though.
He has to be.
I know because it pains me.
It pains me to the darkest, deepest depths of my soul.
The crime could be a child’s idea of a joke. It could be a teen’s act of rebellion. It could be a malicious attack aimed at Jews or Israelis. The intent doesn’t matter, really.
I am Jewish, so you may erroneously assume that that’s the only reason why the pain’s reverberating throughout my being.
That’s not it, though.
I’d feel the same pangs if a billboard featuring LeBron James was painted over with the N-word. I’d feel the same way if Yi Jianlian, Hamed Haddadi or a player of any other race or ethnicity was the victim of a hate crime, no matter how large or small.
I’ve been on the receiving end of bigotry and ignorance. Of dirty stares. Of slurs. Of pushes. Of punches. In one form or another, most of us have been recipients.
That’s why I was so proud last season. Proud of the wonderful ways fans greeted Omri Casspi. From coast to coast, arenas welcomed the rookie with cheers and applause.
I wasn’t pleased because the NBA and its crowd showed a Jew respect. I was proud because they showed an outsider love.
Now, in Casspi’s adopted American hometown, cracks are creeping up the still wet cement of tolerance.
Unfortunately, as these incidents and many more attest to, the United States is still teeming with bigots.
Tomorrow, on one of the most introspective holidays, I’ll spend the day at synagogue studying my faults, flaws and sins. Thousand of miles away, Omri Casspi will, too.
At some point in their lives, whether they’re apprehended or not, hopefully the swastika-painting Sacramento criminals reassess themselves as well.
Up until last week a Kings mural stood in Sacramento.
Now it stands for so much more.